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  • Writer's pictureThe Bossy Bookworm

Review of The Comfort of Crows: A Backyard Year by Margaret Renkl

This gorgeously written set of fifty-two love letters to nature encourage reflection and urge the reader to pause to honor even the less glamorous wonders of wilderness.

Pull up a weed from the wet soil of the drenched garden and smell the rich life the earthworm has left behind. Just a whiff of it will flood you with a feeling of well-being. The microbes in freshly turned soil stimulate serotonin production, working on the human brain the same way antidepressants do.

In The Comfort of Crows, Margaret Renkl offers a literary, nature-focused devotional of 52 chapters, each meditating on an element inspired by her close examination of the goings-on in her backyard.

Renkl's beautiful, striking observations range from a New Year's Day sighting of a crow and her exploration of crows' senses of community and cleverness, which she hopes set a tone for the year to come; to a grief-stricken examination of deadly fads such as the desire to have a vibrant green yard, free of weeds, and the widespread impacts of the poisonous chemicals required to achieve such a thing.

So much of what I do in this yard is only ever an exercise in hope.

The author is deeply connected to nature and has a poet's way with words as she explores the wonder of migration, nature's cycles of life and death, and wild creatures' behavior.

Renkl weaves in stories of her pivotal childhood encounters with nature, and for me the book really shone when she included her family's current shifts and changes in poignant passages she linked to her observations of nature. I adored this element--possibly because with a senior in high school, I am also facing enormous pending alterations to the makeup of our household.

Epigrams appear at the beginning of each essay, setting a tone for what's to come.

Nothing in nature exists as a metaphor, but human beings are reckless metaphor makers anyway.

I listened to The Comfort of Crows as an audiobook, but I think this one would have been even better read as a physical book for easier pausing and pondering.

Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?

Renkl is also the author of Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss and Graceland, At Last: Notes on Hope and Heartache From the American South.


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